CSM Thesis

‘Signwallahs, the Past or the Future?’

A thesis focused on the sign painters or Signwallahs of India.

The Signwallahs are a community of extremely talented artists who are struggling with their art. I see their survival as a major contemporary art issue. Signboard painting has been a popular tradition in India since the early 20th century. A storehouse of creativity, the Indian streetscape is made up by the work of the signwallahs.

Having grown up surrounded by this vibrant and quirky art on signboards and transport vehicles I was compelled to explore it further. I met and worked with creative individuals who have been involved in the tradition of this art. I was fortunate to meet and interview Hanif Kureshi a Graphic Designer who created I also worked with Painter Premi and Painter Kafeel, signwallahs based in Samrala (Punjab) and Chandni Chowk.

As technology advances and India slowly embraces western corporate culture it is unfortunate to see the tradition and artistic talent of the signwallahs slowly fade into oblivion. In order to prevent this loss, collaboration of the old with the new is essential. As multinational advertising agencies, graphic design firms and fashion houses set their foundations in India, creative individuals of the Indian society must inculcate cultural identity into these establishments to achieve a unique global identity.